Better Call Saul, Season 3, Episode 2, “Witness”
Don’t let the glacial feel or economy of dialogue fool you, Better Call Saul is moving at a blistering pace … for Better Call Saul.
By the end of this episode, Jimmy knows about Chuck’s secret tape, Mike’s been made by the forces watching him and we’ve already crossed paths with unassuming chicken store manager Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito). While that isn’t moving plot on the scale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., it is significant progress.
It was another near-wordless episode for Mike as his counter-surveillance led to Los Pollos Hermanos and seemingly, a dead end. Mike enlists the help of Jimmy to see what the mystery man with the big backpack is doing inside the restaurant. It leads to a silent Jimmy scene, punctuated by the ambient noise of human interaction and commerce that seems to foretell Jimmy’s Cinnabon exile in Omaha.
Jimmy tries be thorough for Mike, even going so far as to root around in the garbage for any potential clues, but to the best of Jimmy’s knowledge the backpack man goes in there for breakfast, and nothing else. Mike learns all too soon that something deeper’s going on when he’s led to an isolated road where a bugged gas cap and a ringing flip phone is there to greet him.
Chuck is becoming less sympathetic by the day as his puppetmaster nature starts to chip away at an innocent façade. Everything is moving according to Chuck’s design. Playing the tape for Ernesto was no accident; instead, it was the snowball rolled down a hill that sweeps up Kim before crashing down on Jimmy. As sure as the sun rising in the east, Chuck knows that Jimmy will try to get the tape back, and Chuck has a legal trap ready for him.
Jimmy’s busy on his own with spy missions, office redecorations and hiring to be done. Bringing on Francesca (Tina Parker) drives the first of what is sure to be many wedges between Kim and Jimmy. The two attorneys have wildly different needs from an assistant. Kim needs a paralegal who can keep the mountain of Mesa Verde paperwork in meticulous order. Jimmy is casting a role in the theatre that is his law practice. His elderly client base needs a folksy voice with a deep appreciation of Cracker Barrel on the other end of that phone, and Francesca is glad to fill that part.
Kim gets caught up in Chuck’s web when Ernesto comes to her with the knowledge of the tape. Seeing as how that tape damages her as much as it does Jimmy, Kim has Jimmy put herself on retainer so their conversations about the tape can be privileged. The knowledge of the recording seems to roll off Jimmy’s back like so much painter’s tape on the wall.
Truly the recording itself doesn’t really bother him, it’s the betrayal and anger that happens when a con man gets conned. So instead of a late-night break-in attempt, Jimmy busts down Chuck’s door in broad daylight, breaks into a locked desk drawer and destroys the tape in front of Chuck’s face. Unfortunately for Jimmy, Chuck’s PI and Howard were in the library witnessing the whole scene.
While Chuck’s trap didn’t spring in quite the way he expected, Jimmy is nonetheless stuck.
With Mike in danger and Jimmy on the way to jail, it feels like the moody setup of the first two episodes is over, and progress will be quick, and contain more dialogue. While the wordless acting of Jonathan Banks and Bob Odenkirk is nice in small doses, a mostly silent season would be a little too avant-garde for even the most devoted Better Call Saul fans.